Ever since becoming a mom my back has gotten pretty stiff and sore. It’s no surprise considering the amount of nusring, carrying, rocking, and snuggling of the tiny human that takes place 24/7 these days.
Backbends can seem intimidating, but you don’t have to be a contortionist, or be able to drop into a full wheel from standing, to reap the heart and chest opening benefits they offer.
Maybe the most challenge part about backbends is that they go against the natural way we move our bodies, especially as new moms. We lean forward to pick up our little ones, move forward carrying then around, slouch forward to snuggle them, and so on. Backbends take us the opposite direction and force us to be a little bit vulnerable, opening up our heart and shoulders. When practiced slowly and mindfully, backbends can even bring thoughts and emotions you have been carrying unconsciously to the surface.
Here are 4 simple backbends you can play around with. Go slowly, breathe deeply, and never push past where your body is comfortable!
1. Cobra Pose
Lie on your stomach with your hands, palms down, on the ground beneath your shoulders. Slowly lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms making sure to keep your core engaged. Only go as far as feels good for your back, you can keep your arms bent and your gaze forward. Or, for a little more intensity, you can press your arms straight and gently gaze upwards.
Be sure to keep your shoulders down away from your ears and your spine lengthened. Watch that you’re not tightening your glutes, the focus should be your back and front of your body.
Hold for 4-8 breaths then slowly lower down until you are flat on your stomach.
2. Bow pose
This pose is not only a great backbend, but it is fantastic for opening your chest and stretches the entire front of the body, while simultaneously strengthening every muscle in the back. This improves posture and spinal flexibility.
Lie belly down on your mat. Bend your knees and bring your heels as close to your butt as possible, keeping your knees hip-width apart. Reach back with your hands and hold onto your outer ankles. On an inhalation gently press your feet back into your hands and raise your heels to the ceiling.
Make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears, and even though your breathing will become somewhat more shallow, but do not hold your breath.
To release, gently lower your thighs to the mat, let go of your ankles, and turn your head (ear to mat) with your arms by your side. Relax there for a few breaths.
3. Bridge Pose
Lie on your back with both knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing down. Slowly press your feet into the floor and roll your spine off the floor, lifting your pelvis towards the ceiling. Keep your knees hip-width apart and keep your glutes relaxed (the goal is to feel the stretch in your back, no forcing with your legs and butt).
You can wriggle your shoulder blades closer together and clasp your hands behind your back to get a little deeper into the pose (picture below). Just make sure you always listen to your body, and never push if you feel discomfort.
To release, exhale and slowly roll your spine back down to your mat.
4. Camel Pose
Camel pose is known as a “heart opening” pose and stretches the whole front of your body, including your hip flexors, while also strengthening your back muscles and improving spinal flexibility.
Start by kneeling with your knees hip-width apart. Rest your hands on your lower back (pictured on the right) and lean back slightly. You can stay here if this feels like enough, otherwise, slowly reach back to your heels with one hand at a time. You can also modify this by tucking your toes to raise your heels slightly.
Gently push your pelvis forwards and lengthen through your chest and spine. Keep your head in a neutral position, or allow it to drop backwards a little – just make sure you are not straining in any way.
Keep breathing and hold for this pose for a max of 60 seconds. To release, place your hands back on your lower back one at a time and slowly roll up.
This is a challenging pose, so give it a try, but go slowly and remember to breathe!
Yoga backbends can be challenging and are not always the most comfortable poses when you’re starting out. But with gentle consistency you will start noticing a difference in your back strength and spinal flexibility.
Always make sure to end off your “new-mom yoga” with plenty of baby snuggles!